HILO, Hawaii – Hawaii County Prosecutor Mitch Roth believes was a target of retaliation for raising concern over possible corruption within the ranks of state government.
On February 14, the Hawaii County Board of Ethics voted to dismiss a complaint against Roth brought forward by Ed Underwood, the administrator of the Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation (DOBOR) under the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources. Underwood said Roth improperly used his position as an elected official when he criticized DOBOR at a recent land board meeting.
In October 2016, Roth testified at a Board of Land and Natural Resources meeting on Oahu concerning a request for a contested case by William Murtaugh, a disgruntled charter captain who was denied a request to renew his mooring at Keauhou Bay. Roth leveled pointed criticism of DOBOR during the meeting.
“He alleged corruption,” Underwood said, according to the West Hawaii Today. “He alleged retaliation on the part of me and my staff with no documentation to back up these allegations. It was very clear he was testifying as the Hawaii County prosecutor.”
Roth explained his side of the story during a recent video interview.
Roth said it all started when he got a complaint from Murtaugh. “He called me and said that our office wasn’t charging his case and if I could take a look into it,” Roth said.
Murtaugh was waiting on a permit, Roth said, and “he put the size of his boat – or son’s boat – on the permit application. The mooring came open; to my understanding, the boat was the right size for the mooring. However, someone at the DOBOR offices changed the size of his boat (on the application) and so his boat no longer met the criteria for getting into that mooring.”
Roth said he looked into the situation as a case of ‘changing information on a government document.’
“I get a lot of complaints about law enforcement and I look into all these…